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Should I Give My Kids Equal Gifts?

That year we gave our son a $100 gift and his sister a $10 gift. Guess what? Both were equally delighted with their birthday gifts.

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Should I give my kids equal gifts? Thoughts from a mom with 14 kids.

Just before Judah’s fifth birthday, Chuck told me he wanted to buy him this Kettler Pedal Car. The price tag was right about a hundred bucks. We lived on a piece of property with five acres. The kids spent countless hours outside during nice weather. We both knew that this toy would get plenty of use. I was all on board and told Chuck, “Sure, go ahead and buy it for Judah.” 

That year we gave our son a $100 gift and his sister a $10 gift. Guess what? Both were equally delighted with their birthday gifts.

Tilly and Judah have birthdays just three weeks apart (Judah is 12 months and 3 weeks older). When they were small, we always did one big birthday party for them both. With Judah’s gift selected by Chuck, that left me with Tilly’s gift to pick out. Like many parents, I love buying my kids gifts. I like to see them happy, I love to see their faces light up with joy. After some thought, I decided to buy Tilly two sets of dollhouse furniture.

That year we gave our son a $100 gift and his sister a $10 gift. Guess what? Both were equally delighted with their birthday gifts.

We had a Fisher Price dollhouse family that she enjoyed playing with. I went to Toys R Us and bought her two sets of dollhouse furniture that cost $4.99 a piece.

Yes, we spend $100 on our son for his birthday that year and at the same party gave our daughter $10 worth of toys.

Can you guess what  happened at their birthday party?

The kids opened their gifts.

Judah squealed with joy when he saw his Kettler Car.

Tilly opened her gifts and squealed with joy when she saw her dollhouse furniture.

Both kids were equally happy. 

Sure, I could have bought Tilly $100 worth of gifts.

I could have bought her more that two sets of dollhouse furniture.

I could have bought her a darn dollhouse…but you know what?

More gifts would not have made Tilly any happier.

It’s not secret that I don’t believe in participation awards. I believe in hard work and actual accomplishment. I believe in teaching our kids to take responsibility for their actions, letting them fail, and not shielding them from disappointments in life.

I believe that less is more when raising kids and you don’t have to convince them to drink juice.

So  when you’re out doing your Christmas shopping this year, remember, your gifts don’t have to be equal.

They don’t have to be equal in size, quantity or value.

They just need to be given with equal amounts of thought and love.



  1. Melpub

    Perfect gifts! I remember when one of my sons was three. He wanted a Thomas Train roundhouse . . . the thing was very expensive, over eighty bucks, and my first thought was “what if he’s tired of it after a week?” But he begged and begged and he did avidly play with his Thomas Train set. So I got him the roundhouse for Christmas. He tore the package open–the look of ecstasy on his face made us very happy–we were even happier when he ran around yelling “I did it! I did it!” He placed with that roundhouse for years.

    • Renee

      Yes! Sometimes as a parent you do spring for the expensive, “outrageous” gift…remember the Lion Temple? And really, more toys for Tilly would have ended in more stress for us (clean up) whereas she enjoyed (and could quickly clean up) her two toys.

  2. thissquirrelsnest

    Have you dealt with a child always comparing what they have with others? And whining incessantly for more? I’m dealing with this right now, and while I do know I’ve been too indulgent in the past I’m getting very annoyed by the demands for more when they have enough.

    • Renee

      Do you mean compared to each other (like siblings or cousins) or to people outside of the family? My kids have not complained about what they get….school has been an adjustment for a couple. Prior to public school they had no clue what other kids did or didn’t get for Christmas. We don’t have TV, so they don’t see any commercials…a couple have been upset that their friends get a ton of expensive Christmas gifts and they do not. These happen to be my more difficult children anyway…

  3. Emily

    I could not agree with you more. My children aren’t very concerned about fairness, understanding that things cannot always be equal. I say it mostly about food, but it’s a motto we want our family to live by “You get what you’re given, and you say thank you”. We meet their needs, we try within budge to meet reasonable wants. Our kids don’t ask for much because we didn’t train them to want and ask for things, or that asking for things is even allowed. They seem to understand that and be contented. We do have one child who struggles with desiring material possessions and money, and I do the best I can to gently try to help him be reasonable with his wants. My MIL is-I don’t like this word, but it’s a perfect description- very anal about equality and fairness. (Pretty sure it has something to do with her opinion that we have too many kids to possibly raise them right-we’ve 6). She sets a Christmas budget for each child, and buys junk to fill in if she’s having trouble coming up with enough stuff to reach the budget. When the children open her gifts, she constantly compares size and quantity to the other kids, pointing out over and over how it is all equal. When we share meals, she offers unsolicited comfort to children who eat less than others that “it’s still fair, because you didnt’ want that much anyway” like the kids worry about that! We really dislike the attitude, because it encourages them to notice. So far, it hasn’t caused any big problems though. Have you ever had relatives take you to task for stuff like what you described here?

  4. Kari

    I couldn’t agree more! Thankfully, my husband has never been of the mindset of equal price, amount, etc. sometimes our kids get a $10 gift, sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s a free dog, lol! We have had family think that everything has to be equal though. ‘So and so has a kick ball so I need to get one for all the rest!’ Um, no I do not need 9 kick balls….they can SHARE!
    I would rather my children get one gift they love than a bunch of gifts just to fill in the budget or number of gifts someone thinks they need.
    Very well written and just in time for the holidays.

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